Locals provide typhoon silver lining: Safe water for generations
“Looking back on Hugo, we can see how it strengthened our state in many ways. So, we can confidently look forward to the day we can say, ‘Out of Typhoon Haiyan’s wall of water that killed thousands came safe water that is saving millions.’” - George Greene III, P.E. Ph.D, co-founder/CEO, Water Missions International
Millions in the Philippines are homeless….thousands are dead….devastation is indescribable. Can we dare to hope for a silver lining in Typhoon Haiyan? Modern history, the people of Charleston and the engineers of Charleston-based Water Missions International - say yes, today’s suffering can motivate tomorrow’s solutions.
Consider the impact of other monster storms: Two decades of rebuilding after Hugo has contributed to the re-birth of Charleston as a world-class center of history and culture. In the wake of the giant tsunami in 2004, Indonesia has implemented a new disaster-management strategy that could save countless lives in the future. Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans in 2005, sparked a spirit of reform and poverty relief in the Big Easy.
So, what is the silver lining in Typhoon Haiyan? Life-saving, long-term safe water solutions.
Months before the most powerful storm on record slammed into the Philippines, experts worldwide warned of impending doom in the Philippines that could kill millions. The “Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 Report” — released on World Water Day, March 22, — sounded the alarm for an “imminent water crisis” in the region if immediate steps were not taken to improve water quality and management (Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 Report).
“When Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines, we already had engineers in the region working to design and implement strategic, long-term, safe water solutions,” said chemical engineer George Greene III, co-founder and CEO of Water Missions International, a Charleston-based nonprofit, Christian relief and development engineering organization, providing sustainable safe water and sanitation solutions for people in developing countries and natural disasters. “Of course, our immediate focus shifted to helping the Super Typhoon Haiyan victims simply survive,” said Greene, whose organization has responded to every major natural disaster since 2001.
Water Missions International, a key first-responder and thought leader within the global safe water community, activated emergency water supply efforts helping victims in the hardest hit areas. By Thanksgiving, the organization has mobilized additional equipment and staff to serve 63 Philippine communities and a total of 315,000 people with their daily drinking water needs now - and for up to 20 years after installation - with training of local residents by Water Missions staff and engineers.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, along with the city’s hospitality industry and various local media hosted a press conference challenging the community to raise $100,000 for Water Missions International. Riley recalled the outpouring of help for the city after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 saying, “It made a huge difference in our recovery.” The $100,000 goal would enable Water Missions to ship and operate four water systems, Greene said, providing daily safe drinking water for some 20,000 people. ‘Charleston Responds,’ is also rallying the community through Facebook and Twitter hashtag #CHSresponds.
These kinds of immediate and sustainable solutions is what corporate sponsors like Fed Ex, and partners like Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and The Pentair Foundation say motivate them to work alongside Water Missions International.
Water Missions is hoping that this outreach to meet the immediate needs of the Philippines, will stimulate increased awareness of and support for efforts to head-off an even worse, yet preventable disaster. “Water-borne diseases threaten to claim far more lives in the Philippines than Typhoon Haiyan. If we heed the warnings now and act, we can give them safe drinking water and sanitation for generations to come,” said Greene, who looks forward to the day when we can look back on Typhoon Haiyan and say, “Out of that wall of water that killed thousands came safe water that is saving millions.”
Water Missions International, led and staffed by top engineers from across the U.S., is currently seeking support for immediate and long-term safe water solutions in the Philippines. For more information and contributions, visit watermissions.org/haiyan More on Charleston Responds atTwitter hashtag #CHSresponds.